“Many of us ask what can I, as one person, do, but history shows us that everything good and bad starts because somebody does something or does not do something.”

— Sylvia Earle, Oceanographer

Coral Reef Restoration

Just outside the bay of Akumal our coral nursery is home to over 70 staghorn coral fragments. They are attached to lines designed and installed by Expedition Akumal, who maintain the nursery, keeping the corals free from algae and sedimentation. The volunteers are able to remove algae and maintain the health of the fragments, as well as collecting unique data which teaches us more about staghorn coral and reef restoration.

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Our first line was set up in August 2014. The fragments have survived and are growing fast! It is now time to commence propagation.

So what does this mean? Each fragment will be clipped to make several smaller fragments. This process allows us to propogate the corals, and increase the population size very quickly. Each smaller fragment shows the same rate of growth as the larger fragments.

The fragments in the nursery are so healthy that they are even growing over the plastic ties that are used to hold them in place!

How does it work?

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Fragmentation is a natural asexual reproduction process which allows staghorn coral colonies to recover quickly after natural events such as hurricanes. New colonies can grow from broken off fragments quickly to replenish the remaining population. Each fragment is essentially a clone of it’s parent, as there is not mixing of genetic information as there would be in sexual reproduction. This is useful for reef restoration because the genetic strain of staghorn that is surviving in the poor conditions will be propagated.

Fragments hanging on the line receive full sunlight, that is, no longer lying on the sea bed where they are starved of sunlight and often become colonised by algae or suffocated by sedimentation.

Staghorn coral relies upon sunlight for photosynthesis. Up to 90% of  the staghorns corals’ energy requirements come from photosynthesis,  therefore by increasing the amount of sunlight available to the coral we are increasing it’s energy supply.  This supports it’s rate of growth.

What next?

The next stage of the project will involve clipping our fragments to create a new generation of fragments in our coral nursery. Clipping will increase the population size and biomass of corals in the nursery. Eventually all of our fragments will be out-planted onto the coral reefs.

We are designing structures and lines to maximise the results and minimise the risks for the fragments. Will be posting more updates on this shortly!

Want to help us?

If you would like to help in this process there are 3 ways to get involved:

  1. Donate – Expedition Akumal is non-profit, therefore we rely upon your donations to continue saving the reef. Donations can be made via Paypal here, in our office No.207 in the Hotel Akumal Caribe, or via CEA (just make sure to say it is for Expedition Akumal Coral Restoration!). If you would like to make a donation of equipment for scuba or the office please just have a look at our wish list by clicking here or contact us here with any questions.
  2. Come on an Expedition! –Our highly experienced team of PADI professionals can train you in scientific techniques and coral restoration methodology. We can provide courses for groups, specific to their learning requirements, and on-land talks for non-divers and students. Find out more here.
  3. So you are an experienced diver with a background in marine biology? Contact us to find out more about volunteering with Expedition Akumal. It is the perfect time to get involved with our coral restoration project. Find out more here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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